We all make them – mistakes! Many times mistakes make us appear foolish or incompetent. But just knowing that mistakes are sometimes unavoidable and inevitable, they can lead to a breakdown in confidence and concentration. There are two psychological strategies to deal with mistakes:

Limit focus on the mistake.

Create a positive mental setting for the remainder of your tasks.

Limiting focus on the mistake means setting the mistake aside mentally. Once the mistake has been made, there’s no way to relive the event successfully. Going over the mistake again and again only rehearses making the mistake. Reviewing the mistake can also lead to self-directed anger or embarrassment. Any thought about the mistake should focus on the technical and controllable aspects of performance, but even this evaluation should only focus on how to correct the mistake and what to do the next time out.

Whether the mistake is yours or an employee’s, don’t aggravate the issue by asking: "Why did you do such a stupid thing?" but rather ask, "How can we correct this error?"

To create a positive mental setting after making a mistake, identify and focus on technical aspects of the performance that are associated with good performance. This "positive set" needs to include an emotional component, a feeling that "we can do it." Thinking of past successes can generate this feeling.

A failure must be seen as something that has happened and is gone. File it away immediately. If further analysis is necessary, it should be done in the future, after the immediate negative impacts have lost their edge.

The "blame" for a mistake should always be focused on a controllable technical aspect of performance (you did not follow company policy) rather than a weakness in an individual (you’re not smart enough). Many individuals are not willing to accept responsibility for a mistake and tend to focus attention or "blame" on co-workers, possibly erroneously. Be open-minded about mistakes and realize that mistakes are going to happen.

We all have "bad" days and "good" days. It happens – but one of the most important things we must learn to do is develop a positive attitude, especially at those times when it seems the most difficult thing to do. With a positive focus, the employee is given something to do to avoid the mistake and is given a feeling that they’ve been successful many times before – and will be again!

Mike Holt’s Comment: This newsletter was extracted from my Business Management and Management Skills’ Workbook. Watch for our next newsletter, and as always, we encourage your comments and feedback. Send us your real-life experiences. Please respond to

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